Have you Been to the Shemer Art Center Lately?

By: Taz Loomans

The Shemer Art Center is a small arts venue focused on showcasing local artists and offering arts education to the local community. It’s a special place housed in one of the oldest homes in the historic Arcadia neighborhood in Phoenix. The center serves as an arts resource for the community, offering a full slate of unique and intimate exhibitions, a fantastic sculpture garden, classes for adults and children and is home to the popular MicroDwell exhibit every spring.

A Brief History

The Shemer Art Center wasn’t always an arts venue. It started as a small lonely house as part of a housing development project on 640 acres called Arcadia in 1919. The house was built for the workman in charge of construction and was the first house in Arcadia. This initial development venture failed because wells were expensive to drill and people weren’t willing to move that far away from town.

In 1925, a banker from Kansas obtained the land that the house sat on and he added a kitchen, a living room, and two bedrooms to the house and called it Casa de Wanda. The banker divided the land into 40 acre home sites.

In 1927, the 40 acres that contained the house were sold to the Suhr family who embarked on an another expansion of the residence. They enlarged the garage into a studio space, they added two more bedrooms and a bathroom, enclosed the porch, enlarged the kitchen and stuccoed the outside of the house. This work resulted in the building we see today.

In 1984, the Suhr family put the house up for sale. A long-time Phoenix resident, Martha Shemer, got wind of this and thought the house was such a special part of Phoenix history, it should be preserved and open to the public to enjoy. She bought the property and donated it to the City of Phoenix with the stipulation that the city operate it and maintain it. In October of that year, the Shemer Art Center was born.

A year later, in 1985, the Shemer Art Center and Museum Association was formed to provide support and input into the operation of the center. In 2010, when the City of Phoenix could no longer support the administration of programs, a 501c3 nonprofit was formed and took over operations, staffing and programming of the Shemer Art Center.  Meanwhile, the city still owns the property and maintains the grounds under the Parks and Recreation Department.  It’s a public private partnership that has lead to the resurgence of this vital local asset. Jocelyn Hanson, a well-respected arts veteran previously from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, leads the Shemer as Executive Director.

Educational Programs

Education is a cornerstone of the Shemer, and many Phoenix and Arcadia residents have had great experiences with the center’s hands-on class offerings. One of Martha Shemer’s dream for the facility was for it to provide the citizens of Phoenix with an arts education facility. And so the Shemer is a location for various adult and children’s art classes and workshops. Adult class offerings include open studio drawing and painting, pottery, watercolor, appraisal and tips on selling art classes. Children’s offerings include summer art camps and various open art studios. The center also offers workshops on photography, drawing and painting. You can find a full schedule of adult classes here. Information on youth classes can be found here. And find out more about the various workshops offered at Shemer here.


With a focus on Arizona artists, and a wide variety of traditional and new media, the art center holds exhibits that are both local and unique.  Student works are also heavily featured. Since 2012, the Shemer has been hosting the extremely popular exhibit on its grounds modeled after the  MicroDwell movement, started by Rocket FAB founder Patrick McCue, which calls for creative solutions for compact housing. The exhibit showcases owner-built modular micro-dwellings, their varied uses and alternative construction techniques. The exhibit includes interactive workshops about construction and assembly techniques, and presentations about related products such as solar ovens. With a new exhibit on 3D printing, the first of its kind, launching in October, the Shemer is once again breaking new ground as an art center. And make sure to visit the New Sculpture Garden at the museum. The facility’s ample and beautiful grounds provide a great backdrop for the works of some of Arizona’s best sculptors.

30th Anniversary Events

This year and next, the Shemer is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Upcoming exhibits and events this year include:

Exhibit: Shemer Student & Faculty Exhibit
July 31 – August 28, 2014
Opening Reception: July 31, 2014 (Tonight!)

Exhibit: Pushing Paper
September 4 – October 9, 2014
Opening Reception: September 4, 2014

Exhibit: Materialize: 3D Printing & Rapid Prototyping
October 16 – November 27, 2014
Opening Reception: October 16, 2014

Shemer Outdoor Sculpture Competition and Exhibit
November 1, 2014 – November 1, 2016

Sunday@Shemer Art Festival & Silent Auction
November 2, 2014

Exhibit: Layers: Collage & Assemblage
December 4 – January 1, 2015 (4 weeks)
Opening Reception: December 4, 2014

Click here for a full schedule of upcoming exhibitions and events and to keep up with updates.

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